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Right to Lifers Get Jackley to Allege Roe v. Wade Amendment Circulators and Voters Are Violating Petition Law

South Dakota’s anti-abortion Republicans are so scared that their misogynist theocracy won’t withstand a public vote that they have engaged in a yearlong campaign to harass people circulating and signing petitions to put abortion rights on the 2024 ballot. They have used the noisy conflict they create with their intimidation tactics to push county commissions to ban petition circulators from courthouses in Sioux Falls and Aberdeen.

And now they’ve enlisted Attorney General Marty Jackley to amplify their intimidation tactics. On Halloween, the Attorney General sent Rick Weiland, leader of Dakotans for Health’s petition drive to put a constitutional amendment codifying Roe v. Wade on the November 2024 ballot, a letter saying his office has received evidence that could support challenges to the D4H petition:

Attorney General Marty Jackley, letter to Rick Weiland, 2023.10.31, p. 1.
Attorney General Marty Jackley, letter to Rick Weiland, 2023.10.31, p. 1.
Attorney General Marty Jackley, letter to Rick Weiland, 2023.10.31, p. 2.
Attorney General Marty Jackley, letter to Rick Weiland, 2023.10.31, p. 2.

The CC: to SD Right to Life suggests that the evidence Jackley claims to have came from the anti-abortion activists who have been stalking and harassing petition circulators and signers.

Jackley says the evidence he has received (but not shared with Weiland or the press) suggests possible violations of three statutes:

Pictures and video allegedly show unattended petitions. I’ve always warned circulators that leaving petitions sitting around outside of their watch if not their physical grasp is a grave dereliction of good petitioning practice. Voters’ signatures are gold; failing to keep them secure can lead to their being stolen, especially with anti-democracy radicals waiting to pounce on a chance to foul a petition drive. It also creates the possibility that voters may sign the petition without a witness. Unwitnessed signatures should not count, and a circulator who submits unwitnessed signatures and falsely swears that she witnessed them violates SDCL 2-1-10 and commits a Class 1 misdemeanor.

But suppose the Attorney General has received pictures and video of unattended petitions. Such visual evidence would not show the commission of a crime. It’s profoundly stupid to leave petitions lying around in public unsupervised where people can sign, ruin, or snatch them, but you can’t slap cuffs on circulators for being stupid. To put any stupid circulator in jail, the visual evidence would have to show individuals placing signatures on petitions without a witnessing circulator, and then those very signatures would have to show up in the petitions submitted to the Secretary of State with a signed oath swearing that stupid circulator X did witness those very signatures. If the Attorney General shares the evidence he claims to have with Dakotans for Health, petition sponsor Weiland comb through his stacks of petition sheets, find the signatures shown to be obtained without a witnessing circulator, and scratch those signatures or the entire sheets that contain such demonstratedly unwitnessed and thus invalid signatures, thus avoiding any violation of South Dakota law or ballot integrity.

Video shows “petition signatories may be signing more than once”. SDCL 2-1-6 makes it a Class 1 misdemeanor to sign a petition more than once. Here the penalty would fall on the signer, not the circulator—after all, how is circulator Suzie to know that voter Tillie already signed a petition carried by circulator Uma yesterday or eight months ago?

But voters, too, can have a tough time remembering if they’ve signed specific petitions. SDCL 2-1-6 requires that the state prove that a voter knew she had already signed the petition when she placed her second signature. A video purporting to show voter Tillie violating this law would have to show voter Tillie signing once, then either signing again on the spot or coming back days or weeks or months later and saying, “Oh, is this the Roe v. Wade petition? I signed earlier; here, let me sign again!” The difficulty of establishing a knowing violation of this statute is why, to the best of my knowledge, the state has never prosecuted any voter for signing a petition twice. If such a duplicate signature turns up, the Secretary of State simply discards the later signature and chalks it up to forgetfulness, not willful fraud.

Evidence shows “circulators providing misleading information to the public”. Attorney General Jackley cites SDCL 2-1-1.1, which requires that circulators “provide to each person who signs the petition a form containing the title and explanation of the initiated amendment to the Constitution as prepared by the attorney general; any fiscal note prepared pursuant to § 2-9-30; the name, phone number, and email address of each petition sponsor; and a statement whether the petition circulator is a volunteer or paid petition circulator and, if a paid circulator, the amount the circulator is being paid.” However, Jackley does not say he has any evidence that circulators have failed to provide that form with the A.G.’s title and explanation and other required information. Instead, in his lengthiest statement on any of the allegations (three paragraphs on this point as opposed to only one for each of the preceding two), Jackley alleges that circulators have been saying things that don’t agree with the A.G.’s official explanation.

SDCL 2-1-1.1 does not require circulators to provide the Attorney General’s explanation of their measure and nothing else. Circulators and sponsors can say whatever they want about the measure they are circulating, just as the protestors harassing them and the voters can say whatever they want about the proposed initiative. Jackley can’t put anyone in jail for disputing the Attorney General’s explanation or stating other opinions about a ballot measure. He doesn’t signal that he will; instead, he says this third allegation “may well result in a challenge to the petition process”. But whatever legal spaghetti Jackley’s lawyer chum Rep. Jon Hansen plans to throw at the Roe petition when it is submitted, the argument that circulators said things about the initiative that don’t appear in the Attorney General’s explanation won’t invalidate a single signature.

Once the anti-abortion activists started waving Jackley’s letter around in the press, Dakotans for Health offered this response indicating their ongoing commitment to conducting their petition drive according to Hoyle and to giving South Dakotans the chance to vote that South Dakota Right to Lifers want desperately to deny them:

In response to recent allegations brought forward by SD Right to Life and presented to the office of Attorney General Marty Jackley, Dakotans for Health releases an official response to the South Dakota Attorney General.

“Let me tell you what is actually going on here. We have hundreds of people, mostly young women circulating petitions and collecting signatures to restore reproductive rights in South Dakota. Then the “Decline to Sign” anti-choice, anti-democracy harassers literally follow our circulators around and call them baby killers and tell people not to sign,” said Restore Roe petition sponsor, Rick Weiland.

“Right to Life has of course not shown us the charges they have made or given us their so-called evidence and we are respectfully requesting that AG Jackley provide all evidence and material supporting these allegations so that we can respond appropriately. If a volunteer has not dotted an I or crossed a T somewhere we will address it and comply exactly with every part of the law. But it isn’t rocket science to understand that these anti-choice, anti-democracy charges are just another attempt to discredit our effort. They can try, but we believe they will have a very hard time convincing anyone that it is wrong to let the people decide,” continued Weiland.

Dakotans for Health seeks to uphold the citizen petition process that South Dakota established in 1889 and emphasizes the importance of letting South Dakotans decide on the pivotal issue of women’s reproductive rights. Right now South Dakota has among the most extreme anti-reproductive freedom laws in the country with no exceptions for women or children who have been victims of rape or incest. Under current law, the only exception for an abortion is if a woman or young child is actively dying.

While acknowledging disagreements regarding the reinstatement of reproductive rights, Weiland emphasizes the shared belief in respecting the petition process. He also highlighted concerns about the “Decline to Sign” campaign led by SD Right to Life and other groups, which has been reported to spread misinformation and intimidate volunteers.

“No one can hide the fact that current South Dakota law says the only way a woman or young child, even one who is a victim of rape or incest can get an abortion is if they are actively dying,” Weiland concluded.

Dakotans for Health stands firm in its belief that the people of South Dakota should have the right to vote on issues that critically affect them. In alignment with the state motto, “Under God the People Rule” [Dakotans for Health, press release, 2023.11.02].

It’s disappointing that Attorney General Marty Jackley is throwing his anti-choice supporters a bone by promulgating their smoke-and-mirrors campaign against honest petition circulators and voters who just want to put abortion policy to a public vote. But he and his anti-choice, anti-democracy friends know that the last two times South Dakotans voted on abortion, 55% majorities voted against more restrictions and affirmed Roe v. Wade abortion rights. Thus, by hook, crook, and Attorney General, they have to do everything they can think of to deny South Dakotans the chance to express their will again on abortion rights.


  1. sx123 2023-11-03 06:38

    I read that the anti-abortion laws did not put a dent in the number of abortions overall. Just moved them around. Was quite obvious this would be the case.

  2. Richard Schriever 2023-11-03 08:31

    Considering the time that has passed since the last SD vote on the issue, I will say this amendment will pass with a solid 60% (or more) approval. The times they have been a changin’. As with much other MAGAtry, the true motivator for the RTLr’s is angst over their own time moving on (it’s mere projection of their own deaths a comin’ round the bend – they see and need a denial route).

  3. Donald Pay 2023-11-03 08:43

    The unattended petitions out in a public space is something that needs to be addressed. I agree that it doesn’t necessarily mean signatures were collected during that time, but it does exhibit a sloppy operation by that petition circulator. It might call into question any signatures that circulator collected during that day, even if gathered legally. I wouldn’t have that person circulating a petition again. If there is a way to find out the time and place where this happened, or if the circulator[s] can be identified, the sponsors should be able to find the petitions circulated during that day by those circulators. The sponsors might want to do their own investigation. How do we know this circulator wasn’t working for the opponents, setting this up to make it look like signatures were being gathered illegally? Your fake Attorney General might be part of the scam.

  4. e platypus onion 2023-11-03 08:46

    current South Dakota law says the only way a woman or young child, even one who is a victim of rape or incest can get an abortion is if they are actively dying,” Weiland concluded.

    From the moment one is born death is the ultimate and inevitable ending. If abortion is ending a human life and birth control preventing a life from happening and is being outlawed, why isn’t sex without the intention of pregnancy a major crime according to phony kristian magats like Jackoffley and Guv Noem Not A Damn Thing?

  5. John 2023-11-03 09:18

    Anti-science Jackley is pandering to his base. He’s also giving a heads-up that the state, in concert with the usual suspects, will fight this petition and the will of the people at all costs and using extreme means, including their own lies and exaggerations. The fact that Jackley refused to share his faux “evidence” screams volumes that it amounts to nothing beyond fairy tail allegations.

    The petition circulators at last evening’s Lewis Black’s show at the Performing Arts Center, Rapid City, did a fine job. The circulators and most signers ignored the short shrill petition protestor who harassed them.

  6. larry kurtz 2023-11-03 09:35

    3. Rich women have full reproductive rights while women at the lower income margins suffer chilling effects on those rights. Women in Texas, Wyoming and South Dakota who can afford it simply jump on a plane and fly to Albuquerque, Minneapolis, Denver or elsewhere for their procedures. Imagine a woman on the Standing Rock or Pine Ridge doing that.

  7. larry kurtz 2023-11-03 09:37

    “Use the modifiers anti-abortion or abortion-rights; don’t use pro-life, pro-choice or pro-abortion unless they are in quotes or proper names. Avoid the term abortionist, which connotes a person who performs clandestine abortions.” — AP Stylebook

  8. All Mammal 2023-11-03 11:46

    I use “pro-forced birthers” and “pro-women’s rights”.

    We shouldn’t have to deal with peeping psychos watching us from the bushes with video recording devices. According to FBI profilers, peeping toms and stalkers are likely committing crimes against women and their behavior tends to escalate to rape and murder- per Dr. Dayle Hinman A&E’s Profiler… so the concern of the AG should be for the safety of circulators and the criminal behavior and warning signs of the peeping thomas / stalkers.

    The radical “forced-birthers” are getting creepier, weirder, and bolder and the AG is looking like his eyes are getting closer together. Girls and women: be afraid. Fight back.

    History is chockablock full of heinous crimes against humanity carried out by zealots and the state. The RTL “forced birthers” are following the same righteous road to hell, paved in godly intentions.

  9. Francis Schaffer 2023-11-03 21:14


  10. Lars Aanning 2023-11-04 01:29

    Just following the trail to the governorship…

  11. Donald Pay 2023-11-04 09:05

    I would also like to suggest that the AG is unconstitutionally forcing government mandated speech, not just in the unconstitutional AG explanation forced onto signers, but going one step further with unconstitutionally requiring circulators to mouth the AG’s forced government words into their mouths. How the effing hell more much totalitarian can you get than having to “Heil, Hitler” the AG’s words.

  12. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2023-11-04 10:33

    Donald, I agree completely on the forced-speech point. Requiring circulators to spout the government viewpoint on their proposal violates the First Amendment; expecting them to recite nothing but the government line, even more so.

  13. grudznick 2023-11-04 10:57

    Shape up your ship, Mr. Weiland. For once you are trying to law bill a good cause and here you are screwing it up. This is why we can’t have measures initiated be a functional thing.

  14. Donald Pay 2023-11-04 12:08

    Grudz, Stop being a crisis actor, will ya. It’s not good if these petitions were left out unattended in public, and people signed. That is not what you ever want to have happen, because that circulator then cannot legally sign the petition. You could lose all the signatures on that page of the petition. But if someone with Right to Life saw this, they should have, as good citizens, brought it immediately to the attention of the circulator. I had to do that several times with people who were passing around Republican nominating petitions. It seems these Right to Life folks aren’t very good citizens to allow people to collect signatures incorrectly.

    They say they have photographic evidence. Well, great. I wonder if they have framed it so that someone is standing just off camera, which could be a mere few feet away.

    I’m a little skeptical, to say the least, about these fake private eyes purporting to be Right to Life, or vice versa. I wouldn’t put it past them to do this to threaten and harass people, as did the Chen-Nuclear private eyes in the 1980s. Back then those intimidaters had to do the threatening and intimidation all by themselves. Now it appears they’ve got a rather weak Attorney General backing up the intimidaters, and actually doing the intimidation himself. Your AG needs to take a good look at the people who failed to bring this to the attention of the circulator immediately. That’s what any good citizen would do.

  15. larry kurtz 2023-11-05 09:00

    There is no right to life especially in South Dakota.

  16. e platypus onion 2023-12-04 08:36

    Magats definition of pro life, according to Barney Frank,(D Mass). is life begins at conception and ends at birth.

    Perfect encapsulation of South Duhkota magats and hypocrite Zit.

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